By Martin Upchurch
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The Invisible Handcuffs of Capitalism

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Michael Perelman
Issue 359

Michael Perelman is a dissident among academic economists, who engages with Marxist analysis through the US based journal Monthly Review. His books aim at tempting American audiences into discovering aspects of Marxist analysis through a popular writing style.

This latest book focuses on the degradation of workers in the US today. The starting point of his analysis is the decline of real wages in the US since the end of the 1970s. This, argues Perelman, “has not radicalised workers, but rather just made them more fearful of losing their jobs”.

Workers are thus bound by invisible handcuffs. This is reinforced by an ideological denial of the economic reality of class. The book is written in a style which employs anecdotal evidence to make good points. Yet ultimately this book is both frustrating and depressing. The stories we are told of the degradation of labour appear as a stream of Perelman’s consciousness.

He pulls back from Marxist conclusions about the historic role of the working class as an agent of revolutionary transformation. Instead he concludes with an appeal to release the creative spirit of workers by more cooperative working.

A fine sentiment, but not one that can be achieved without class struggle to secure workers’ liberation from the handcuffs of capitalism.

The Invisible Handcuffs of Capitalism is published by Monthly Review Press, £14.99

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